‘All the support and love are definitely helping me’: Brittney Griner releases message from Russian prison thanking ‘everyone for fighting so hard to get me home’ as she turns 32 behind bars

  • Eight months after being detained in Moscow, WNBA star Brittney Griner is thanking supporters for the love while she spends her birthday in Russia
  • Griner marked her 32nd birthday on Tuesday inside a Russian jail cell 
  • The basketball player’s lawyers released a statement on her behalf
  • Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, recently met with U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss attempts and plans to bring her home 
  • The basketball player was arrested in Russia in February on drug charges related to cannabis oil found in her belongings at an airport
  • Griner said she accidentally packed the oil instead of vape cartridges 

WNBA star Brittney Griner has said she was thankful for all of the love and support from fans as she celebrated her 32nd birthday in a Russian prison. 

The basketball player released a statement Tuesday through her attorneys who were able to visit her, according to CNN.

‘Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me,’ Griner said in her message.

The statement was released through her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, partners with Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners. 

‘Today is of course a difficult day for Brittney,’ said Blagovolina. Not only is this her birthday in jail away from her family, team mates and friends, but she is very stressed in anticipation of the appeal hearing on October 25.’

WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner holds photographs standing inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 27

‘I’m terrified I might be here forever,’ Griner wrote recently in a letter. ‘I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees

Some reports indicate that Brittney spends up to 23 hours a day in a tiny Russian jail cell, accompanied by two cell mates

Lawyer Alexander Boykov, pictured in August, said that Griner spends her days reading books and playing a Battleship style game with her cellmates

The lawyers checked in on their client and were reportedly able to spend some time with her as she celebrated her birthday thousands of miles away from her family. 

Blagovolina and Boykoc said that they relayed birthday messages from her loved ones, including wife Cherelle Griner. 

Cherelle has been one of the major forces in the movement to free Brittney from the prison where ‘she is a hostage.’  

Brittney was sentenced to nine-year inside The Kremlin for drug possession in August. 

The WNBA player was found earlier this year with cannabis oil inside her suitcase during a trip to Russia. 

At the time, Brittney said that she had packed the oil accidentally, believing it to be refills for her vape. 

Cherelle recently sat down with CBS News to discuss the situation and the actions she has taken to free her wife. 

‘In no world did I ever thought, you know, our president and a foreign nation president would be sitting down having to discuss the freedom of my wife,’ Cherelle told CBS News.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=9xp1XWmJ_Wo%3Fstart%3D1

Cherelle (right) and Brittney got engaged in 2018 and were later married in the next year 

Cherelle Griner has met with U.S. President Joe Biden to talk about getting Brittney home

WNBA Player Brittney Griner with her spouse Cherelle Griner have been separated since February when the center was arrested in Russia 

Cherelle has become Brittney’s most fierce advocate since she was arrested in February for drug possession in Russia

‘It feels to me as if she’s a hostage.

‘It terrifies me because, I mean, when you watch movies, like, sometimes those situations don’t end well. Sometimes they never get the person back.’

On the basketball player’s birthday, the league said that they will continue to keep thinking and fighting for her until she is back on U.S. soil. 

‘Happy Birthday Brittney Griner, we will not forget about you and we will not stop fighting for you. The W won’t be the same until you’re home #WeAreBG,’ the WNBA posted Tuesday afternoon. 

The WNBA player admitted to having the cannabis oil in her luggage but has maintained that they were packed inadvertently. 

Brittney said she was rushing and that’s how the cannabis, prescribed to her for pain, ended up in her bags. 

Before her August conviction, the US State Department said she was ‘wrongfully detained’ by the Russian government. 

Brittney is set to appear in court on October 25 to appeal her prison sentence.

Cherelle last spoke to the media before her CBS News interview and her discussions with U.S. President Joe Biden just ahead of Brittney’s August 4 conviction. 

In her meeting with Biden, Cherelle told the New York Times that the acting president ensured to her and the Griner family that the US government will pursue ‘every avenue to bring Brittney home.’

Biden, who also met with Elizabeth Whelan, sister of Paul, conducted separate meetings to assure the families that the detainees ‘are at front of mind,’ said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

‘We’re going to continue to do everything that we can, working tirelessly every day, to make sure that we get them home,’ she told reporters.

Brittney had sent a handwritten letter to Biden asking for help.

‘I’m terrified I might be here forever,’ she wrote. ‘I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.’

Imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner is ‘at her absolute weakest moment in life right now’ as she awaits her appeal hearing on drug charges in a Russian courtroom later this month, her wife Cherelle (pictured) told CBS Mornings

Former US Marine Trevor Reed was released by Russia in an April prisoner swap after being convicted of assault in July 2020. He was meant to serve a nine-year sentence.

‘I’m going to give credit where it’s due, and I feel as if this administration is putting a lot of manpower into ways to get BG home through negotiations,’ Cherelle said in July. ‘Because it’s not as simple as one may think – of looking at the list of people we have and asking Russia to choose.

‘It’s more complex than that and they are exhausting a lot of effort.’

In early October, Cherelle told CBS Mornings that she was afraid her wife was losing energy and hope inside the prison. 

‘I don’t know if she has anything left in her tank to continue to wake up every day and be in a place where she has no one,’ Cherelle said. 

Griner is being held inside Correctional Colony No. 1, the New York Times reported on October 12. 

Boykov spoke with the news outlet about her condition ahead of her appeal and the conditions inside of the facility. 

In July, the New York Times referred to the prison as having ‘gray painted halls and grim tall walls

The building is a former children’s orphanage that was converted into a prison around 2012

Now, Griner’s lawyer says that the WNBA star doubts that she will ever see home again as negotiations continue to falter between the US and Russia 

 The basketball player’s cell mates are both English speakers who are also in jail on drug charges. 

Prison rules dictate that inmates are only allowed to shower twice a week and Griner is able to get fresh air once a day. 

The prison holds about 1,248 inmates and features a sewing factory that employees more than 400 inmates.  

In July, the Times referred to the prison as having ‘gray painted halls and grim tall walls.’

Speaking on her physical and mental health, Boykov said that his client was struggling. 

‘She has not been in as good condition as I could sometimes find her in,’ Boykov said. 

Griner is one of the more than 1,200 prisoners at IK-1, located around 50 miles from Moscow

The sewing facility inside of IK-1 employs more than 400 women at a time 

The lawyer also stated that he believes she may be losing hope, echoing Charelle’s worries.  

‘She is not yet absolutely convinced that America will be able to take her home. She is very worried about what the price of that will be, and she is afraid that she will have to serve the whole sentence here in Russia.’

Of her upcoming appeal, Boykov said that she is concerned that the hearing will not go her way. 

‘Perhaps the verdict will somehow be changed and, perhaps, the sentence will be reduced, because the decision taken by the first court is very different from judicial practice.’

Brittney Griner could face time in a labor camp if her October 25 appeal is denied, according to her wife Cherelle 

‘Considering all the circumstances, taking into account my client’s personality traits and her admission of guilt, such a verdict should be absolutely impossible,’ the lawyer continued.

If Brittney’s appeal is denied, she could face time in a labor camp, according to Charelle.

‘Once that hearing is held, and the order is finalized, B.G.’s now in the position where she could be moved to a labor camp,’ Cherelle said. ‘My brain can’t even fathom it.’

The WNBA star was expressing doubtful and negative thoughts regarding her fate, according to her wife. 

Despite the odds, Cherelle is still hopeful that Brittney will be freed and the two will reunite 

‘She’s, like, saying things to me like, ‘My life just don’t even matter no more,” Cherelle said. ‘You know, ‘I feel like my life just doesn’t matter. Like, I’m just being tossed around, like, for people’s enjoyment and gain.’

‘Those are all valid emotions to feel and I don’t have answers for, except the fact that your life matters to me, and I wanna get you back home,’ Cherelle said. ‘I’m gonna continue to pray every day that, you know, the people that are the decision-makers in this situation will have mercy and will sit down, and they will, too, see that your life matters, and do whatever they can to agree — on terms.’

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